Why is Food an Issue for Sustainability Today?

The decline and collapse of civilization throughout history were frequently a result of a shrinking food supply; and although the reasons for the inadequate food supply varies the end result is always the same. As a global population we have continued to develop and utilize our resources to feed a growing population, but without reversing the environmental trends which control the world’s food economy it will collapse (Plan B 4.0). Providing adequate food for the global population is a complex task which involves a large variety of individuals and institutions. Those involved can begin with the farmer and end up at the consumer but include a diverse set of interactions along the way; included those with traders, processors, governments, scientists, regulators, experts in human, animal and plant health, economists, bankers, financiers, shops, and supermarkets.

Providing the global population with adequate food supply would ensure that no one in the global population goes hungry. Hunger is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary in three forms:

· the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
· the want or scarcity of food in a country
· a strong desire or craving
World hunger refers to the second definition, aggregated to the world level. The related technical term is malnutrition.
(2011 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics) Food Security:
Food Security means sufficient and safe food available for everyone at all time with no physical and economic barriers for an active and a happy life. Although, throughout the world, efforts are made to produce enough food and everyone should be fed properly but there’s still people who have little or no food.
Hunger Stats:
“Global Hunger:

  • 925 million people do not have enough to eat - more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union; (Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010)
  • 98 percent of the world's hungry live in developing countries; (Source: FAO news release, 2010)
  • Asia and the Pacific region is home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people;(Source: FAO news release, 2010)
  • Women make up a little over half of the world's population, but they account for over 60 percent of the world`s hungry. (Source: Strengthening efforts to eradicate hunger..., ECOSOC, 2007)
  • 65 percent of the world's hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. (Source: FAO news release, 2010)

The UN's Commitment to Food as a Human Right

The UN has put together guidelines in order to, on an international level, further the cause of adequate food as being a human right. These guidelines present countries with methods to begin providing all citizens with the food they need for survival. It also supports international cooperation to create an international environment that can support these initiatives. The UN works together with their Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Trade Organization to encourage governments to create programs that can take "measures in relation to methods of production,conservation and distribution of food" including "developing or reforming agrarian systems". These guidelines are voluntary however, countries must recognize their obligation to provide for the Human Rights of their citizens under the UN. If a country cannot meet these needs of their citizens, they are in violation of their human rights. On a global level, the guidelines recognize the issues that are inherent in our current trade systems which impose tariffs on imported food to developing countries and encourages that these trading issues be resolved so that international cooperation can be fostered in regards to the sustainable production of food.

Sources of Hunger

The primary source of hunger is a result of Poverty, the primary source of Poverty is a result of Harmful Economic Systems. Conflict by a source of both hunger and poverty, climate change is also contributing factor to hunger. Hunger in its self can be a cause; hunger can be a cause of poverty which contributes to hunger.
(2011 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics)

Poverty can be caused by lack of resources, extreme inequality in distribution of incomes, conflict, and hunger itself.
Harmful Economic Systems are those where the resources and incomes are based on military, political, and economic powers which are held in the hands of few which live well while the majority are barely surviving if they do.

Conflict can be closely linked with Harmful Economic Systems, it is closely tied with refugees and those who have been displaced as a result of conflict.

Climate Change is a factor that affects hunger and as a result of climate change this can effect food production and availability. Changing weather patterns and an increase in extreme conditions are altering farming practices as well as a shift in crops.

(2011 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics)

World Hunger:

According to the World Food Program Organization, 925 million people are not getting adequate food in the world today. In another words one out of seven (1/7) are not getting the required food to maintain their proper health and continue their life actively. This risk to the health is even greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
The main causes of hunger are act of God, poverty, poor agricultural infrastructure and miss use of the environment. Recently, financial and economic crises are also one of the factors in creating hunger.
Economists estimate that Hunger can also effect the lifetime earning of an individual from 5-10 % whom were faced by hunger and inadequate food in their childhood where their physical and mental health were suffered.

Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises
Close to one billion people are globally not getting adequate food in 2010. This decline was due to a good economic situation in 2010, particularly in developing countries, and the decrease in food prices since 2008. According to the FAO estimate a total of 925 million people are undernourished in 2010 in comparison with 1.023 billion in 2009. Anyhow, the number of hungry people is more in 2010 than 2008–09.

Agricultural innovation will reduce poverty, help stabilize climate change:
About a billion people are having no food even though the food is available but about 40% is wasted before it is used. (Worldwatch Institute, an environmental sustainability and social welfare research organization, today released State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet), which shows success in agricultural innovation and make plans to minimize global hunger and poverty keeping in view the impact of agricultural practices on the environment. "The international community has been neglecting entire segments of the food system in its efforts to reduce hunger and poverty,"(said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of Worldwatch's nourishing the Planet project). Approximately 33 % of children in Africa are facing hunger or malnutrition, which will possibly increase to 42 million by 2025

Actionable Items
1. Raising Land Productivity
In the past when an increase in supply was needed the cropland would just be expanded, unfortunately this is no longer a possibility so additional measures need to be considered when an increase in supply is needed. This can be done through the use of fertilizer, the spread of irrigation, and development of higher-yielding varieties.

Use of Fertilizer
1950 14 million tons
2008 175 million tons

Use of Irrigation
1950 94 million hectares
2000 278 million hectors

Higher-Yielding Varieties

There are limitations with these methods, as a result of increased fertilizer more water is needed, and subsequently the more irrigation which is used requires more fertilizer. All three methods have a limit as there is only some much irrigation and fertilizer which can be applied and any additional is wasteful as there are no longer increased yields. Similarity with higher-yielding varieties, there is a window; for example wheat appears to top out at 7 tons per hector, well some rice’s have increased to above 4 tons per hector but achieving 5 tons is not easy.

The use of these methods all come at an increased cost, and not only are there financial restrictions to the use of these methods but also resource restrictions. In many nations water is already a scarce resource, so the option of irrigations is not available.
(Plan B 4.0)
2. Raising Water Productivity
To produce 1 ton of grain it takes 1000 tons of water, as a result 70 percent of the worlds water fresh water is used for irrigation.

Increasing the productivity of water can be difficult because it is partially determined but the climate, water climates have much higher rates of evaporation. The increase in water productivity is generally a shift from less efficient irrigation means to more efficient means. Switching to low pressure sprinklers can reduce water by 30% and the use of drip irrigation can result in a reduction of 50%.

As a result of low water prices, the productivity can be low, but as water becomes scares and the price increases this will begin to change.

Another method of raising water productivity is through the production of water-efficient crops. Similarly for those who consume to much livestock an increased in consumption of products from lower in the food chain will increase water productivity.
(Plan B 4.0)


3. Produce Protein More Efficiently
36 percent of the grain produced today is used to feed animal as a means to produce animal protein. The word meat consumption has been drastically increasing.

~Shifting from beef and pork to poultry and fish which are more efficient in converting grains to protein.
7 kgs grain to produce 1 kg
3 kgs grain to produce 1 kg
Just over 2 kgs to produce 1 kg
Herbivorous species (farmed)
Less than 2 kgs to produce 1 kg

~Shifting to fish farms which produce protein at a high gain efficiency

(Plan B 4.0)
4. The Localization of Agriculture

Local food movement which involves urban gardening, school gardening, and farmers market, this is becoming more important as oil prices continue to rise increasing the cost of food. Not only will this reduce the cost of the food produced but it will also decrease the carbon imprint that the is associated with food production.
( Plan B 4.0)

5. Strategic Reduction in Demand
This method is does not rely on the production of food, but addresses the issue of population stabilization which has been so please see “Eliminate Poverty and Stabilize Population” (Plan B 4.0)

6. Stopping the use of Grain in Ethanol Fuel Production
The growing use of alternate fuels has pushed consumption of grain products further than it needs to be. "The third major source of demand growth is the use of crops to produce fuel for cars. In the United States, which harvested 416 million tons of grain in 2009, 119 million tons went to ethanol distilleries to produce fuel for cars. That's enough to feed 350 million people for a year"(Plan B: The great Food Crisis of 2011). Concentrating on fuels other than ethanol and stopping the government subsidies for these fuels can contribute to feeding more of the world's population.

7. To insure the availability and reliability of the food supply globally at all time, regardless of the boundaries. http://www.agr.gc.ca/misb/fsec-seca/pdf/action_e.pdf

8. Insure proper distribution of food, and help discourage poverty and gender discrimination. http://www.agr.gc.ca/misb/fsec-seca/pdf/action_e.pdf

9. To make long term plans by controlling the degradation of the land, water, air, to make the food available. http://www.agr.gc.ca/misb/fsec-seca/pdf/action_e.pdf

10. Each country should make their own agricultural policies and properly implement them in producing food especially in areas with a lot of agricultural production.



Work Cited:
Plan B 4.0 - Brown, Lester R. . Plan B 4.0 Mobilizing to Save Civilization. [Online] www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/book_files/pb4book.pdf.